George Kahn CD Store

Thursday, December 20, 2007

How the Grinch Stole the Record Business

As 2008 approaches, I find myself thinking more and more about the fate of the music business, the fate of the physical Compact Disc, and the fate of Jazz as a viable national product.
These observations are personal, and just support and confirm the double-digit losses that record sales are once again showing compared to 2006:
-I went to Harvard Square in November while visiting family back east. Upon asking to see their music department, I was informed that they closed the whole CD and DVD department down 2 years ago - students were no longer buying music and movies. (It is too easy for them to download or "share" the music with their classmates.) In reality there is NO record store in Harvard Square. The only place carrying music is Newbury Comics, and that store has a very small supply.
-If you go into a "big box" store, like Best Buy, Circuit City or Target I think you will notice that the CD department is one of the loneliest places around. No shortage of elbow room
-The top selling albums of the year are... Josh Groban singing Christmas Carols, and "High School Musical". More proof that the music business is giving up on what was once the core demographic (teen - 30 year olds) and focusing on selling product to kids too young to know how to download, or parents too lazy to learn.
-Starbucks bought "Hear Music" a couple of years ago with the idea of integrating a record company that could allow people to burn their own CDs while they sipped lattes. Last week I visited the one free-standing "Hear Music" store in LA, located on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. The front third of the store had been converted into a Starbucks. The back 2/3 was still filled with listening stations and a very eclectic selection of music CDs - and virtually no people.
-In place of record stores in the Malls this year, you find coffee places, booksellers and Nordstrom (to name a few) selling the TOP 10 CDs as impulse buys right next to the cash register. Only big names (Dylan, Springsteen, Alicia Keyes) need apply.

About 5 years ago I predicted the death of record stores as we knew them. Little did I know I would have the timing down so closely.

So where does this leave people like you and me - people who like diversity in music, adventure, experimentation and great music of all kinds? There is always the internet - which can be a very big, lonely place at times.
More shall be revealed - I look forward to your comments

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Album Update #4 - Day 3-4

The basic tracks are in the "can" (though it is not a can anymore, it is just a dedicated hard drive). Now the producing and editing fun begins.
All the tracks on the album were played "live", and were done in just a couple of takes in most cases (some, like "Wes' Coast" were done in one take!) At the same time, the recording studio at Brian's allows us to record each instrument in isolation - we were each in our own room, with visual view of each other and headphones for the sound. This allows each of us to go in and "fix" things, if we choose to, after the basic tracks are done.
Day 3 of the session was set aside for piano fixes. I am very picky about the quality of material that I release, and I want it to sound the very best. This style of recording allows me to go in and redo my solos, if I choose to, to really play the best that I am able. Of course, the "feel" comes first. I am not looking for the "perfect" solo, as much as the best "feel", and so very often the original take is what we ended up staying with. Sometimes, with the pressure of the initial tracks out of the way, I found that my mind and fingers found wonderful new places to go that really added to the songs.
On Day 4 I had Courtney Lemmon come back in to redo her vocals for "Use Me", and I also asked Justo if he would like to come back and play some more. This allowed Justo to play in the "big" room, where he was able to stretch out more, as opposed to the little iso room he was in when we did the initial recording. Justo really had a chance to open up with his tenor - it was great!
We were now nicely along in the project, and it was really starting to sound good! Little did I realize that, after Brian came back from a 3 week road trip in Europe, there would be so much more!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Album Update #3: Recording Day Two - Sept. 5, 2007

Today started with the quintet, which has been my preferred instrumentation for live performances - sax, trumpet, piano, bass and drums, like The Jazz Messengers, the Adderley Brothers, Horace Silver, or the Miles Davis Quintet. This has always been my favorite jazz sound - a swinging rhythm section and two horns in front. For the morning session, during which the plan was again to knock out three tunes, I called two guys that I have played with often over the last few years: Justo Almario and John Fumo. They are both brilliant players, and way too underused on jazz recordings.

The first song was "Mitchell's Blues", a song dedicated to Blue Mitchell, a great trumpet player that worked with the Horace Silver Quintet. He and Junior Cook left Horace and started their own hard-bop quintet back in the mid-60's (you may want to check out their recordings with a very young Chick Corea on piano). The title does not refer to the song form - this is far from a blues. It is more a reflection on the reality that many of these bands faced in the 60's, playing 6 nights a week, three sets a night in clubs across America while the jazz audience dwindled away into the Rock n Roll scene. Of course, now we look back and say, "Well, at least they had clubs to play in!"

Our second track of the day was my arrangement of "My Favorite Things", from "The Sound Of Music". This is a song that we have been performing live for quite a while. John Coltrane had the "hit" - (check out the video) with this, and made numerous recordings, taking the two chord E-minor vamp in 3/4 to the moon and back. For my take on the song I wanted to focus on the Afro-Cuban feel of the 6/8 rhythm. We gave Alex a chance to start the song off with a conga and percussion solo to set the mood. Then the band kicks in with a 2/4 over 6/8 polyrhythmic feel. I asked Justo to play the melody a little straighter than he might usually, and we end up with what might happen if Julie Andrews performed with Babatunde Olatunji! The solos start open, and then follow the form of the song. On the way out John gets to play the Fluegel Horn (an instrument that was first extensively used in jazz by Shorty Rogers).

"Use Me" features Courtney Lemmon on vocals - Courtney also helped out on the "...Compared To What?" CD. When I went searching for songs to do as cover tunes on this album I immediately thought of Bill Withers. The song "Use Me" got me through the summer of 1972 when I was working at my father's factory in Queens, NY for a summer job during college. I would listen to the soul station on the radio, and Bill's song of love and lust was all over it that summer. He is such a pure spirit and true original - and his music reflects that. My version starts with an intro that may sound like the band is searching for the right key for the song. We finally settle into a C-minor groove, and then Courtney takes over. Stick around for the ending of this one - it is so hot, it makes me want to start the song over again every time I hear it!

After lunch, Pat Kelley joined the session and we started switching up the instrumentation a little. "Wes' Coast" is dedicated to Wes Montgomery. Wes was another total natural, like Bill Withers. His Riverside recordings set the bar for all jazz guitar records to follow. The song is in the style of the old Miles Davis Quintet, and is how I imagine a record would have sounded if Miles and Wes every worked together (to the best of my knowledge they never did). This song was so much fun to play, we could have gone on for 20 minutes. But that version will have to wait for another day. Pat plays a wonderful solo in the "Wes" style, and Fumo channels Miles for a bit. This song really shows how talented Alex Acuna is - here he holds an incredibly swinging beat throughout the tune, and still brings a sense of dance and percussiveness to the proceedings - it is so exciting to play with him - there is so much "life" going on.

"Cover Up!", the title song of the album, is the most contemporary sounding track of the collection, and it features Justo on tenor and Pat on electric guitar. Sexy and funky, it carries the listener on a little 24-bar journey as it moves through a few different tonal centers. This one is also inspired by Miles Davis, but a later incarnation, after he started experimenting with electric instruments. I take a small leap forward by letting Pat use a WAH WAH pedal on his guitar. What does the title mean? Is it a cover-up? Does it mean put some clothes on? Is it cold outside? You tell me.

We did record one more rhythm track that day as a quartet, an arrangement of "Love For Sale". This one I decided to shelve for the time being - the 11 tracks make a really great album - and so we call it a day.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What is "West Coast Jazz"?

Some people would argue that West Coast Jazz is jazz recorded on the West Coast of California, from Los Angeles up to the San Francisco area. After all, some of Charlie Parker's most important recordings for Dial Records were made in LA, before and after he spent time "Relaxing at Camarillo". Wardell Grey, Teddy Edwards and Dexter Gordon all burned up the Central Avenue scene, playing bebop as bad as anyone on 52nd Street.

Some would say the West Coast Jazz is not based on location, but more a certain sound. Many people go so far to call it a creation of the West Coast record companies in an attempt to "brand" and cash in on a style that, for a moment, caught the ear of the nation via Dave Brubeck's quartet with Paul Desmond, and the creative "little big band" sound of Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars.

I would posit that "West Coast Jazz" was (and is) really an attitude, a feeling, a "vibe" that could only originate in a place filed with palm trees, big, open horizons, ocean breezes and urbanity. It was an answer to the left turn that took place when the Big Bands died out and jazz starting chasing the Bird down the bebop trail. And it took the mix of the City and the Wild West to make it come together.

It is entwined with Cool Jazz - Gil Evans should be considered an honorary member of the West Coast Jazz contingent - after all, he lived in California from the age of 10, saw his first jazz concert in San Francisco when he was 15 (the Duke Ellington Orchestra), and Gil didn't really move to New York until he was almost 30 years old!

Fostered by the likes of Vince Guaraldi, Cal Tjader, Shorty Rogers, Andre Previn, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelly_Manne, Curtis Counce and others, the core of West Coast Jazz consists of:
- a less frenetic, calmer style (some might say more "soulful")
- interesting and more intricate arrangements, sometimes with a "classical" bent to the compositions
- a sophistication that is more "martini" than "whiskey"
- a willingness to try new sound combinations and orchestrations

Not that the west coast players couldn't BURN on any bebop tune (look at Art Pepper). Many of the live recordings from the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach gave light to the lie that West Coast Jazz players were all "laid back". In LA, where many of the jazz cats found their true financial calling by doing recordings for the movie and TV industry (such as Bud Shank, Jack Sheldon, and Shelly Manne) it kind of makes sense that West Coast Jazz would become more eclectic in form and instrumentation.

But the BEST of West Coast Jazz - the part that lifts my sails and makes me glad to carry on its tradition - is that part that speaks to the creative and adventurous in each of our souls. My goal is to create music that is classic, contemporary, hip and cool, all at once.

I think this new album will fill the bill. I hope you do, too, when you hear it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Album Update #2: Recording Day One - Sept. 4, 2007

We started recording around 10:00 AM at Brian Bromberg's studio, called B2 (as in "B Squared") Studios. Brian has a lovely German grand piano there, and a great engineer named Tom McCauley that also signed on for the project.
The goal for the first day was to knock out 6 tunes in about 6 hours - not impossible, but certainly a good days work. Day one was all trio stuff, so that made things a lot simpler than dealing with different set-ups and instrumentation.
Alex's drums were all set up when I arrived, and by 11:00 or so we had good drum and piano sounds happening. The studio is set up where each of us were in an isolation room, with headphones - both Brian and Alex could see me, so I was in charge of signalling any tempo changes, stops or starts.
We started out with Eleanor Rigby, the well-known Beatles tune. This song has a feel like the old Ramsey Lewis Trio recordings - as a matter of fact, most of Ramsey's hit albums in the mid- 60s consisted of cover tunes of pop music. He even did a whole album of Beatles tunes in 1968! To keep in the "West Coast Jazz" style I composed an intro to the song that switches back and forth between 4/4 and 6/8 time signatures, using the string part from the original Beatles arrangement as a jumping off point. We had no trouble falling into the groove on this one!
Next up was "Sunshime Of Your Love" the classic rock tune by CREAM. This was a challenge to arrange - I wanted to make it swing, but not sound like a SNL-lounge version of the tune that Bill Murray might try to sing at a karaoke bar. Of course, working with Brian and Alex brings you to a place far from Karaoke! The drums have a bit of hip-hop feel to them, and we de-contructed the melody a bit. Add Brian's double stops, and - voila! - an arrangement that even Clapton would be proud of. Alex gets to take a solo, and, luckily, he had no idea who Ginger Baker is!
The third tune was our only original of the day, "Mr. K. V.". This song is dedicated to my favorite LA acoustic bass player, Karl Vincent. After a jagged unison melody line, it settles into a swinging feel over blues changes. This song was inspired by John Coltrane's tribute to his long-time bass player, Paul Chambers (Mr. P.C.).
After a lunch break, we came back and played Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. Having spent many drug-induced evenings listening to this band, as well as seeing them live, I always have wanted to delve into their music. This song for me has always had one of their strongest lyrics, and so I felt it would be a great taking-off spot for a piano trio. You'll have to listen and judge for yourself if we did it justice.
For the 5th song of the day we attacked a medley of two songs, the Lennon/McCartney classic Yesterday, and the jazz chestnut Yesterdays by Jerome Kern. Initially I had heard this as just the two songs played pretty much one after the other. After all, "Yesterdays" is written in the relative minor of "Yesterday", and it would be pretty easy to do a double time swing on the second tune to set it apart. Brian looked at the chart the weekend before the session and suggested trying to do more of a "mash-up" of the two songs, swinging from the chorus of one to the bridge of the other - and by the time we got to the session I had found a way to do just that. The song starts with a baroque piano solo on the Beatles tune, and moves into a "Dave Brubeck - meets - Floyd Cramer" swing section before Brian takes over with a searing bass solo. This was fun!
We ended the day with an evocative song from John Mayer, "Waiting On the World To Change". Once again, I was inspired by the lyrics, and felt that although John did a great rock version of this song it really called out for a more gospel rendition. (You can see John Mayer's video for this song on his website.) Having lived through the Vietnam War (from a distance - I lucked out with a high draft number), I have spent the last few years horrified by the sad events that have taken place to our troops and to the people in Iraq. "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." I, and most of my generation, started out with such high ideals and now I have found that I continue to wait on the world to change.
Well, that wrapped up day one - a good day's work (and play!)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Album Update #1 - background

Making a jazz album is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. You need to prepare, have all your tools and charts together, bring all the right people into the same place at the same time, and then... you gotta let go. And if everything goes right, lightning strikes, the magic happens, and the sum ends up way greater than the parts.
After months of preparation, testing out songs, writing and re-writing charts, checking out studios and calling players, all the pieces came together on September 4th and 5th, 2007. These were the two days set up to record my 5th jazz album.
I see each album as a progression, as a movement forward in time. And each album gets better! There were a few pieces of feedback that I got after "Compared To What?" was released in 2005: people wanted to hear more songs that they recognized; they wanted to hear more piano; and there were many requests to hear me, Brian Bromberg and Alex Acuna work more as a piano trio.
So the new album aims to fill those requests: There are 7 cover tunes, and 4 originals. Brian, Alex and I perform 6 of the 11 songs as a piano trio. And I guess you will all have to deal with more piano solos.
Brian Bromberg agreed to not only play his "downright upright" bass on the album, he also agreed to produce the album with me! This is huge, and I am so glad he offered to do this. (Brian, by the way has one of the Top 10 smooth jazz albums in the nation currently, called Downright Upright.)
Alex Acuna also came along. Again to my good fortune, Brian and Alex have been working together often (actually they just got back from touring with Lee Ritenour), so they were TIGHT!
For the horns on this album I also called on the two guys that helped out on the last couple of CDs: Justo Almario and John Fumo. Justo and Alex go way back, and they know how to get inside the rhythm. And I just love the way John plays - sometimes he gets so close to channeling Miles that I think he might be a gypsy medium or something.
I wrote one track, called "Wes' Coast", which is a tribute to the old Riverside recordings that Wes Montgomery did. I needed the best guitarist in LA to nail that style, and I got him: Pat Kelley came in and played on that tune, as well as one other. And then I invited Courtney Lemmon to return for another funky vocal track to round out the album.
So now it is time to dive into the actual day...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

MAX ROACH, 1924-2007

Yes, I know it is over a month since the day that Max Roach died. And over two weeks since Joe Zawinul died. This blog was never meant as an obit file, but these are some important dudes - Joe affected virtually EVERY pianist that lived through the '60s, and Max Roach was the last living member of The Founding Fathers of Bebop. For a brief introduction to this sound, pelase check out a Fantasy recording, released on DEBUT, and available in other releases, called THE QUINTET - Jazz at Massey Hall with Diz on trumpet, Bird on sax. Bud Powell on piano, Mingus on bass and Max Roach on drums, recorded May 15, 1953.
or type Jazz at Massey Hall Quintet into iTunes, and you can hear 30 second samples.
Rather than blab on, Ethan Iverson from THE BAD PLUS wrote a GREAT article on his blog - check it out,it is worth a read, and a listen

http://thebadplus.typepad.com/dothemath/2007/08/max-roach-1924-.html

all love - George

George Kahn Quintet, Live at LACMA (at Last!!)

What a wonderful evening this summer! After years of knocking on the door, George finally got the WEST COAT JAZZ Quintet into a Friday Night Jazz slot at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
More info to follow...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Night of Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl

Last night was a most enjoyable and interesting experience - I joined THOUSANDS of other people that went to see Dave Brubeck at the Hollywood Bowl. Along with Dave there was Madeleine Peyroux and Bruce Hornsby
Bruce was trying out his new album in front of a big audience, and he was joined by album mates Christian McBride and Jack Dejohnette.
Well, let's just say that Brubeck showed the youngsters how it is done - his quartet was awesome - great dynamics, incredible interplay, wonderful choice of material. It was wonderful to see a master still in the game at 87 years old!
I enjoy M. Peyroux's song(s), and her phrasing is fun, but her voice got a bit annoying by the end of the set - and she never bothered to introduce her band. It was that Norah-Jones kind of music where you know the musicians must be having a good time, but damn if they are ever going to show it - it looked like the bass player and drummer were on quaaludes, or some type of drug that sapped all creativity out of their playing.
Mr. Hornsby, on the other end, was full of creativity, but was sorely lacking in dynamics and chord progressions. It is always a blast to hear Jack Dejohnette, and Christan McBride and they did a great job lending some jazz authenticity to Hornsby's stab at being a jazz pianist. The best tune of the night for him was a Keith Jarrett song. This was most appropriate, as Jarrett seems to be his main influence.
For some reason they had Bruce Hornsby close out the evening, and I would not want to have to follow Dave Brubeck, especially with a band that was performing on stage only for the fourth time in their existence. Talk about starting at the top - way to go, Bruce! Now, if only he had reworked a cool jazz version of "The Way It Is", and sung it with the guys, maybe they all would have loosened up some and had more fun. As it was, it just seemed like Hornsby had something to prove, and was working really hard to live up to some Jazz-Worthiness level to play with those two giants.
Dave Brubeck, on the other hand, had nothing to prove. He was clearly having the time of his life on the stage with band mates that he has played with for decades. They were a well oiled machine. And the best thing was - thousands and thousands of people showed up to hear a jazz quartet play, with no flash or trash, just great music in an wonderful setting. Go Dave! Long may you wave!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

LALA Land Redux

The big news this last week in the digital music arena was the announcement by LALA.com that they intended to make money by - giving music away! This is news?
LALA.com started as a CD-swapping site, where you can list CDs you want, and CDs you own, and they would connect you to others that HAD the CD you want, or wanted the CDs you own, and for a buck you would get to "swap" the CDs, thereby avoiding purchase or resale through used CD stores or sites. Did this idea work? I dunno, sounded kind of kooky to me.

On Monday 6/4, newly revamped Lala launched a free service (in Beta, at this point) that scans your digital tracks—everything you own from ripped CDs, iTunes downloads or any other means—and then lets you log into the website anywhere to access that music. You can even sideload tracks to your iPod when you're far away from home. Sounds kind of like a big digital juke box in the sky - access to all your music anywhere, plus access to streaming of "shared" music by anyone who is on the LALA network. What does Lala get out of this? They hope that, once you sample the music, you will buy the album through their sales site. Does this idea work? I dunno, sounds kind of kooky to me, very Internet1.0, don't you think?

Actually, excuse me for showing my age, but it sounds almost identical to what MP3.com tried to do and then got sued into oblivion for attempting. It all comes back to the old argument that once someone buys a CD of music, they can do what they want with it. Michael Robertson of MP3.com argued this fact when he created mymp3.com. Here is the info from wikipedia:

"On January 12, 2000, MP3.com launched the "My.MP3.com" service which enabled users to securely register their personal CDs and then stream digital copies online from the My.MP3.com service. Since consumers could only listen online to music they already proved they owned the company saw this as a great opportunity for revenue by allowing fans to access their own music online. The record industry did not see it that way and sued MP3.com claiming that the service constituted unauthorized duplication and promoted copyright infringement.

Judge Jed S. Rakoff, in the case UMG v. MP3.com, ruled in favor of the record labels against MP3.com and the service on the copyright law provision of "making mechanical copies for commercial use without permission from the copyright owner." Rather than fight on appeal, MP3.com settled with the major labels for more than $200 million and the service was discontinued. This decision turned out to be the beginning of the end of the original MP3.com as the firm, unaware of the impending dot-com bust, no longer had sufficient funds to weather the technology downturn. To add to their woes music publishers, spurred by the success of the record label suits, also sued MP3.com with their own claims of payment due."

The only big difference here is that lala is also trying to sidestep Apple's iTunes player, so there may be a lawsuit lurking there, also. Meanwhile, in the spirit of research and curiosity I tried adding the program to my Mac this week, and found it to not work at all, and just slowed down everything else on my computer. So I removed it again.

Is the problem with the music industry the lack of access to music? I don't think so. If Bill Nguyen, founder of lala.com, took his millions and helped support the creation of new music rather than creating a new way for people to avoid buying music (and thereby avoid paying the musician's royalties), perhaps the music business would have more of a chance to flourish.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Can Jazz Survive Inside the Big Box?

More statistics regarding the music business, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal: Ten years ago, back in the long dark history of 1997, big-box chains (like Target, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart) sold about 20% of all music. Now, these stores account for at least 65% of music sales. This is due to the aggressive pricing and advertising that these type of stores use to lure customers in. These stores will use the newest American Idol release as a loss leader, in the hopes that you will buy a plasma TV on the way out.

Along the way, old fashioned "record stores" (like Tower or Sam Goody) were squeezed out of the market. Tower needed a profit margin of 30% to make it fly, while a place like Target can get by just making 14% on a sale of a CD. They can do this by only stocking the albums that sell: a typical Best Buy store will carry as few as 8,000 different titles, while Tower's average location carried more than 100,000 music CDs.

So where does this leave the Jazz music buyer? Really, how many copies of "Kind Of Blue" does one person need to own? If a jazz fan is looking to explore choices in music, the obvious location now is on the Internet, where the "LONG TAIL" of Jazz music is flourishing.

The "Long Tail" discussion is for another day. Today the question is, can even a Norah Jones or a Diana Krall exist in the Big Boxes? And who's to blame here? Is it that people's taste in music has gone to hell in a hand basket? Is it that the stores aren't stocking music, so people aren't buying? Or is it that the record companies are turning out crap, and so everyone has moved on to DVDs and video poker games?

One convincing argument is that the record companies have priced themselves out of business. Gary Arnold, Senior Vice-President for Entertainment at Best Buy, was quoted in the WSJ Journal article: "Music has become a commoditized product. The CD is perceived by consumers to be a $10 item, and the manufacturers continue to release new titles at ...$18.98." I can't agree more - How can I justify spending $19.99 on the soundtrack for "Dreamgirls" when I can buy the DVD of the movie for $15.99? It just doesn't make sense.

At my gig last night at the Jazz Bakery in LA, I decided that, instead of selling my CDs at the gig for $15 or $20 bucks like more indie artists do, I would price them at $10 bucks each. Unlike other recent gigs where I might sell one or two CDs if I am lucky, this time a full 10% of the people there bought CDs on the break or before they went home. Let's get real - everyone knows that the cost of manufacturing the CD runs at MOST $1.80 a unit, so why get greedy? Let's spread the music, and spread a little love at the same time.

Even in jazz, there are people that are willing to spend the extra money to get the original artwork and packaging of a CD, but how many more people would test out new types of music, including jazz, if they could by a stripped-down, no frills package of music priced cheaply enough to let people test the waters? How about a paperback version of Miles Davis' Greatest Hits? We may need to think outside the "Big Box" to finally get inside the "Big Box".

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Sad State of Jazz Album Sales

An article in the Wall Street Journal today speaks about the slump in Jazz sales in 2006. While classical and country music have increased, Jazz sales are slipping away, down from the paltry 3% of all album sales that it used to achieve. Once again, as they say every 5-10 years, "there are signs of rebirth" in the jazz music arena.
But let's take a look at the three albums that the WSJ says are notable new albums:
WYNTON MARSALIS: From the Plantation to the Penitentiary
Well, after a month of release, the newest album from the "King" of retro jazz cannot even muster 10,000 units sold. It used to be a jazz album that sold 50,000 was considered a "hit". Of course, the low sales might stem from the fact that Mr. Marsalis decided to "rap" on one of the cuts, or it could be that people are just tired of his pontificating.
MATHENY/MELDAU: Quartet
A jazz marketing dream, combining the new-aged ramblings of Pat Metheny with the just plain ramblings of Brad Meldau is bound to trigger album sales, enough that the record company has released this, their second collection. Don Heckman in his recent review of the concert here in LA by the quartet said: "it was easier to admire the virtuosity and inventiveness of both players than it was to feel any sense of involvement. Despite the firepower, the talent and the marquee names on the bill, this was a program in which — unlike Simon's "The Odd Couple" — the two disparate elements never found a fully engaging (and engaged) way to interact with each other."
See the complete review

KIM WATERS: You are My lady
Well, I dunno this guy, but he has put out 9 albums over the last 9 years, FOUR of which include the word "love" in the title (this falls into the "know your market" category of successful marketing). Sad to say, even here in the "smooth jazz" world the heat is off- after three weeks on the market Kim has sold 6,100 copies.

Now, I am not casting aspersions on anyone that can sell over 5000 albums in less than a month. But I do think that the sales of jazz music will continue to slip, as long as people continue to turn out formula-based albums. It is time to break out of the mold. Play the Coachella Music Festival, anyone?

Monday, April 2, 2007

The Genie is still out of the bottle, and EMI rubs the lamp

Today EMI Music announced that they would allow people to buy digital downloads with no copying restrictions. All I can say is, it's about time, don't you think?
Here is the Wall Street Journal article from today.
Having been around since mp3.com (and an original shareholder - that was a good ride for a while), I always really agreed with Michael Robertson - the record companies let the Genie out of the bottle when they created CDs. Once they released the music in digital form, the bits and bytes get hard to hang on to. And, if the record company was very happy to take our money when we converted the music (vinyl albums) we owned to digital form by purchasing the CDs, shouldn't we have the right to move it from there onto our computer, iPod, Walkman or wherever? Do they have the right to charge us again every time we move it to a different machine or format?
YES, I know the argument that this doesn't solve the problem of people illegally sharing song files or downloading the music without buying it. But suing college kids probably isn't the solution either. If the music has value, people will pay for it - once. If they like it, they will come back for more. And if you give them unfettered access, they are more likely to pay the $1.00 entrance fee, knowing they get to keep the music with them, wherever (and however) they go.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

April 1, '07 - The downfall of record companies, the rebirth of music

April 1st – we have just entered the second quarter of 2007. Amazing.
The newspapers report that CD sales are off 20% from last year. Digital sales are up, but not nearly enough to offset this loss.

The record companies, in the meanwhile, are all setting up Digital record Labels, focused on putting out individual downloads by composers, or from TV shows or movies.

But the bigger question is: who needs the record labels anymore? Actually, while we are at it – who needs radio anymore? We seem to have reached a TIPPING POINT in the music industry, where the idea of buying a $12.00 (or $18.00!) album to get the one song you heard on the radio just makes no sense. Buy the songs you like, pop ‘em into your ipod, and plug it into your car and go cruising – no more ads, no more Cd jewel cases to crack. Makes sense to me!

But what happened to that time of discovery – when you would sit down for 30-40 minutes and get into someone’s audio vision of the world. When not just a song, but a SET of music put together by an artist could carry you to a whole ‘nother world? The ideal is still there – I still want to share that kind of experience with my listeners, and not just a three minute snippet of what I do and who I am. That is why I love jazz – we are in another time zone with it (maybe another place and time). I hope you will still come along with me when the moment appears.

March 1, '07 - Satellite Radio Monopoly?

I was a very early subscriber to XM Radio, and they always have had really great jazz programming (and have the good taste to program my CDs as well!) But then I leased a new Volvo, and the car came with a free 6 month subscription to Sirius Satellite radio, so I switched. It also came with an auxiliary input for my IPod, so the choices instead of ad-based radio are multiplying.
Meanwhile, I have a bunch of gripes with Sirius. I find the programming much less interesting than what I had on XM, and it all feels a lot more “robotic”. I know, with 100 stations I didn’t think they really had 100 DJs sitting in booths all day long spinning discs, but at least on XM they found a way to make it at least SOUND like there is a real person there and they care if you are listening. Plus the digital sound files that Sirius uses sound like they are of less quality than what I got on XM, plus there are numerous digital “glitches” in some of the recordings (most people probably don’t notice, but it drives me bonkers). And the signal is less steady than XM, with lots of drop-outs.
So I was all ready to switch back to XM when the free trial ends, but THEN they announce that XM and Sirius want to merge. What is that about? Why would XM radio want to saddle itself with all that debt that Sirius took on by giving Howard Stern $500 million dollars? (Come to think of it, that could pay for a whole lot of DJs on the other stations...). What happened to the good old days when a company is consistently losing money like Sirius is, and they GO OUT OF BUSINESS, instead of being merged with the competition? Oh well, I guess it is the American way, merge and shuffle the numbers to protect the guilty...
Meanwhile, has anyone bought a CD lately? Can you find a store that still sells more than the TOP 30 of what you don’t really want to listen to anyway? Since December after Tower closed, I have purchased all my albums on Itunes, burned them and printed out the cover art – it is simple, fast, and cheaper. The times have changed, and will continue to do so.